NASA to launch its TESS Exoplanet Mission in a SpaceX Falcon 9

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Source SpaceX Wikimedia Commons

Just a couple of decades ago, the notion of finding habitable planets - or any planets at all - was a mere fantasy, said Paul Hertz, astrophysics division director at NASA.

In a two-year survey of the solar neighborhood, TESS will monitor more than 200,000 stars for temporary drops in brightness caused by planetary transits. Scientists at the space agency expect TESS to add hundreds of Earth-sized and super-Earth-sized planets into the existing catalog of exoplanets and bolster our search for life beyond Earth. Additional information was not immediately available, according to a spokesman.

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Using balloons to salvage the upper stage would allow the aerospace firm to re-use the module on future missions. NASA's newest planet-hunting spacecraft is poised for a Monday evening launch.

Following the launch, SpaceX will attempt to recover the Falcon 9 rocket and nose cone by landing the rocket on a drone ship and using parachutes to slow down fairings before they hit the Atlantic. The company hopes to land this first stage on a floating ocean platform following liftoff, and reuse it on a space station supply run for NASA this summer.

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The Tess Satellite could mean leaps and bounds for space exploration.

"But since then, we have found thousands of planets orbiting others stars and we think all the stars in our galaxy must have their own family of planets".

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NASA calls the spacecraft TESS, which is short for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. These newfound worlds eventually will become prime targets for future telescopes looking to tease out any signs of life.

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